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The early stages of gum disease known as gingivitis, is caused by a build-up of plaque around the necks of the teeth where the teeth and gums meet. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. If plaque is left to accumulate on the teeth, the bacteria produce toxins that cause the gum tissue to become inflamed which then will bleed easily during brushing or flossing. At this stage, gingivitis can be reversed with a dedicated approach to careful oral hygiene ie effective brushing and flossing. If left untreated, gingivitis can quickly develop into a more destructive disease known as periodontitis. Periodontitis results in gum tissue attachment to the teeth being lost and the supporting bone structure around the teeth being dissolved. Periodontitis is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

There are a number of indications of gum (periodontal) disease which include:

  1. Bleeding when teeth are brushed and flossed. Healthy gums do not bleed.
  2. Red and swollen gums.
  3. Persistent bad breath and/or bad taste in the mouth.
  4. Spaces beginning to appear between teeth.
  5. One or more teeth starting to become loose.
  6. The teeth seem to become longer because the gums are receding.
  7. The gums are itchy or sore.
  8. Change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.


The factors in Gum Disease:


Plaque – Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease. Plaque is a sticky, invisible film that builds up on the teeth and in the crevice between the gums and teeth. It contains millions of bacteria. Unremoved plaque hardens into calculus (tartar). Calculus cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. It has to be removed by the dentist primarily using an ultrasonic scaler.

Smoking – Smoking can accelerate the progression of gum disease by interfering with the blood supply to the gums. It also reduces healing after treatment.

Hormonal changes – During puberty, pregnancy and menopause hormone changes exaggerate gum inflammation in response to plaque on the teeth.

Diabetes – Diabetes raises susceptibility to gum disease.

Some drugs – Items such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants and some heart medications can have an adverse effect on gingival health.

Genetics – Some patients have aggressive bacteria involved in periodontal disease that are genetically pre-determined.


Progression of Gum Disease:


  1. Normal healthy gums – Healthy gums and bone anchor teeth firmly in place.

  2. Gingivitis – Plaque builds up at the tooth margins. The gums become red, swollen and inflamed and bleed during brushing and flossing.

  3. Periodontitis – Unremoved plaque hardens into calculus (tarter). As plaque and calculus builds up the gums begin to recede (pull away) from the teeth forming a pocket. The top part of the bone then starts to disappear.

  4. Advanced periodontitis – Without treatment the gums recede further resulting in further destruction of the bone and the periodontal ligament. The teeth lose their support, become loose and often need to be extracted.


Preventing Gum Disease


Gum disease can be prevented or halted from progressing further by maintaining the following protocol.

  1. Brush teeth well twice a day – This removes the plaque from your teeth. We recommend a soft bristled toothbrush that is replaced regularly and a fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Clean between your teeth every day – Cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental cleaning aids removes bacteria and food particles from between your teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach.
  3. Balanced diet – A balanced diet from the basic food groups is important for oral health. Minimise between meal snacks and sugary or acidic foods and drinks.
  4. Regular dental visits – At Align Dental we recommend you visit our practice every 6 months for regular examinations so we can check your mouth, teeth, gums and associated structures for any abnormalities. If your visits to us are regular, we are able to detect and address any concerns before they develop into extensive problems. During these visits we will take diagnostic radiographs to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of any problems that may be present. If you experience any problems between your regular appointments to us then you should schedule an appointment immediately for assessment and treatment. You can never be too careful and we will be more than happy to check and discuss any concerns that you may have.

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